German ‘Synodal Way’ meeting ends with call for same-sex blessings, change to Catechism on homosexuality

The third Synodal Assembly of the ‘Synodal Way’ in Frankfurt, Germany, on Feb. 4, 2022. The third Synodal Assembly of the ‘Synodal Way’ in Frankfurt, Germany, on Feb. 4, 2022. | Max von Lachner/Synodal Way.

A plenary meeting of the German Catholic Church’s “Synodal Way” ended on Saturday with votes in favor of draft texts calling for same-sex blessings and changes to the Catechism on homosexuality.

Participants backed a document on Feb. 5 entitled “Blessing celebrations for couples who love each other” by 161 votes to 34, with 11 abstentions, reported CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner.

They also endorsed further discussion of a text on the “Magisterial reassessment of homosexuality” with 174 votes in favor, 22 against, and 7 abstentions.

The text says that “passages 2357-2359 and 2396 (homosexuality and chastity) of the Catechism should be revised” as part of a “re-evaluation of homosexuality.”

The votes came on the final day of the third meeting of the Synodal Assembly, the supreme decision-making body of the Synodal Way, in Frankfurt, southwestern Germany.

The Synodal Way is a controversial multi-year process bringing together Germany’s bishops and laypeople to discuss the way power is exercised in the Church, sexual morality, the priesthood, and the role of women.

The Synodal Assembly consists of the bishops, 69 members of the powerful lay Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), and representatives of other parts of the German Church.

On the event’s first day, members approved an “orientation text,” setting out the Synodal Way’s theological underpinnings, as well as a document on “power and the separation of powers in the Church,” reported CNA Deutsch.

On the second day, they supported texts calling for the ordination of women priests, for priestly celibacy to be optional in the Latin Church, and lay involvement in the election of new bishops.

On the last day, participants endorsed a total of four documents.

The text “Magisterial statements on conjugal love” was accepted for further consideration by 169 votes to 30, with 6 abstentions.

The document, which also calls for alterations to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, says: “Spouses take responsibility for the timing of becoming parents, for the number of their children as well as the various methods of family planning. This is done in mutual respect and personal conscience.”

“In this sense, in the Catechism should be amended: 2366 and 2367, 2396 (conjugal fertility), 2368-2370, 2399 (regulation of conception).”

The last text approved on Feb. 5, the “Basic order of serving in the Church,” appeals for reform of employment laws in the local Catholic Church, which is the second-largest employer after the state in Germany. It passed its first reading by 181 votes to 13, with 11 abstentions.

Archbishop Nikola Eterović, the apostolic nuncio to Germany, addressed the assembly on Saturday.

He said: “The pope often speaks of synodality and the positive aspects associated with it, but equally encourages avoiding a false understanding and errors.”

“As characteristic aspects of synodality, the Bishop of Rome mentions above all: synodality is a gift of the Holy Spirit; it is the way towards an ecclesial community whose task is mission, the evangelization of the world today; the synodal Church requires the participation of all, albeit at different levels.”

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“At the same time, Pope Francis warns against parliamentarism, formalism, intellectualism, and clericalism.”

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s declared in March 2021 that the Church does not have the power to bless same-sex unions.

The Vatican statement, issued with the approval of Pope Francis, sparked protests in the German-speaking Catholic world.

Several bishops expressed support for blessings of same-sex couples, while churches displayed LGBT pride flags, and a group of more than 200 theology professors signed a statement criticizing the Vatican.

Priests and pastoral workers across Germany held a day of protest last May during which they conducted blessing ceremonies attended by same-sex couples.

The next Synodal Assembly will take place in Frankfurt on Sept. 8-10. The Synodal Way is expected to end in spring 2023, ahead of the Synod on Synodality in Rome in October next year.

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